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Taking a Break, and a Breather, at Work

When most people think of corporate America, the image of someone sitting in front of a desk likely comes to mind. It could be a CEO sitting at his large desk taxing away at the computer or isles of workers sitting dutifully in their cubicles slaving away at their work, still on computers. No matter what kind of employee it is, the general similarity is that we are sitting. Sitting working on the computer, sitting talking on the phone, sitting reviewing reports…sit, sit, sitting. As the number of overweight Americans continues to rise, many experts are beginning to see that the amount of time we sit at work is negatively affecting our health. That is why it is highly important that we take various work breaks during our day. If not for our happiness and our sanity, then for our health.

I don’t think my father will appreciate me sharing this story, but I am going to share it anyways. When I was younger, my dad was a very thin man. He’s tall and his body was lean and naturally in shape. He worked as a police man for years and was obviously very active every day. Then he became a Commander and the activity slowly decreased. I can imagine he spent more time in an office than out in the field. After that, he retired and went on to work in the corporate world. This meant he was sitting in a desk in front of a computer for most of the day. As a result, his activity levels decreased significantly, again. It took some time, but his mid-section slowly began to grow. Of course, all older men get a little rounder in the middle as they age, right? However, I think most of this gain was attributed to his long hours of, well, sitting. He sat at work, he sat at home and sat here and there.

A daily routine full of activity and walking turned into a day of still mental activity but with little walking. To my dad’s credit, he is certainly not fat and is still a naturally fit guy. I just think his constant sitting at work contributed to his slight weight-gain over the years. This points to the argument that many are making as of late: work breaks during the day are extremely important and can be detrimental to our health. Yesterday, Chris discussed how best to answer the interview question: How many breaks do you take? I started to think of how many breaks I take in the day and how many my co-workers take. For the greater half of the day, we are all sitting and many of them don’t move until it is lunch time.

Experts say that it is best for you and your body if you take a break every 20 minutes. That doesn’t mean you should take a 10 minute break or a 15 minute break ever 20 minutes. However, you should be getting up to walk around and stretch your legs. According to a study discussed in the Chicago Tribune, “taking a break to walk every 20 minutes instead of staying seated for hours helps reduce the body’s levels of glucose and insulin after eating.” When much of our country is overweight and working, this can be a great help. David Dunstan, a professor at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, was quoted saying, “When we sit our muscles are in a state of disuse and they’re not contracting and helping our body to regulate many of the body’s metabolic processes.” Without moving and exerting energy after we eat, our blood sugar levels increase greatly. If we get up and move around, however, we can decrease the levels significantly and reduce our health risks.

Not to mention the fact that getting up and walking around for a couple minutes is beneficial to our state of mind and our eyes as well. It can get our blood flowing again and give us a short breather to keep our minds fresh. This can be difficult though when we have a ton of work to get done. That is why it is so important to note that a “break” doesn’t necessarily mean a 10-minute rest. Save the longer rest time for your lunch break. Getting up and walking around shouldn’t take more than two or three minutes and it gives you some time to walk away from your work. Just sitting for hours until our lunch break does not bode well for us. Barry Braun, a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, was quoted saying, “What’s shocking to me in these studies is not how good breaks are but how bad sitting is.”

Taking short breaks here and there won’t hinder your work, if you are responsible. It will, however, benefit your health and body greatly. Work pays the bills, but you will have tons more bills if you are overweight, stressed, depressed or have diabetes. Take heed of the study’s important findings and make sure you are taking adequate work breaks during the day. Your health depends on it.

How many breaks a day do you take? Have you seen a correlation between your weight and the amount of time you spend sitting in the day? I certainly have. Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @nicole_spark.

SOURCE: Chicago Tribune
IMAGE: Courtesy of Cartoon Stock

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

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